A month after a major fire gutted the Naya Nagar slum in Mahim killing six people, the fire investigation report that has been prepared by the fire brigade has exposed some glaring risks that informal settlements in the city face from fire emergencies.
While defective electrical circuit has been identified as the primary cause of fire that broke out in an electric meter room in the Naya Nagar slum, the report also reveals how unauthorised storage of combustible material in the area stoked the fire to huge proportions.
The fire that blazed in the Naya Nagar slums situated along the Sion-Mahim Link Road in the wee hours of January 25 for more than four hours, claimed six lives and left 10 people with severe burns.
The 101 slum structures, some of which were up to four storeys high, were destroyed in the fire. All of these structures are deemed illegal as no documents have been produced regarding their ownership and authenticity by the occupants, according to the report.
Fifteen of these unauthorised structures were being used to store wooden scrap, furniture and plastic scrap that caused the fire to spread rapidly.
“Some parties had stored large stocks of old plywood, wooden planks, packing material and so on in their shops. They have failed to produce trade licences and requirement letters from a fire risk point of view from this department,” the report stated.
The fire originated in a common electric meter cabin at the slum and was aggravated as it came in contact with the surrounding combustible material. The fire brigade, in its report, has also recommended that the civic licence department and the G North ward office visit the premises and take necessary action after verifying the authenticity of these structures.
However, recognising the fact that 60% of the city’s population resides in slums that have no fire-fighting mechanism, the fire brigade has planned a ‘Slum Fire Prevention and Firefighting System’ which would include community awareness about machinery and methods to mitigate the destruction caused by fires in such settlements.
“As each slums cannot be inspected, we are planning awareness programmes to make slum dwellers aware of dos and don’ts to prevent fires,” said Suhas Joshi, chief fire officer.